“ The first day of school can be an anxious time for both parents and children. Whether your child is just starting out at school or moving to a senior school - how can you help them be ready? „
It's a long time since I entered the school gates as a pupil although much of my life has been taken up with schools in various ways. I remember my first day at nursery school and can remember at three years old being taken to see the infant school's headmistress on a pre-nursery visit. I recall feeling nervous on my first day at primary school. Many things can help or hinder one's early years; small issues to adults may be huge to a child. Being in the 'wrong' class or having an overly strict teacher can give a child a poor start. I've witnessed children, whose parents thought they would take to school immediately, having to be dragged through the school gates after a week or so and some more reticent thrived. A good start is important as is a kind reception class teacher. My eldest son's first teacher was a horror. Thankfully she only taught him for one term or he may have been home educated! I tried to prepare my children, although I don't know whether their settling well at school was because of this or simply their dispositions. There have been good and bad times but generally they've all enjoyed school. My children have left school although one is at university and another is a primary school teacher. The school links for me continue. I have spent years helping in playgroups, nurseries and primary schools, both in voluntary and paid capacities. I've seen many children begin their first day at school. One start of the school year remains memorable. My eldest was entering her second year of secondary school; my second child was beginning secondary school (different schools); my third was starting reception; baby sister was sixteen months old. It was a busy and horrendous time. My mother had spent weeks in hospital being extremely ill. Our summer had mainly consisted of hospital visiting. Mum had been a willing support system; one who would shop with us for school uniform and be relied upon to collect a grandchild from school. Labelling school uniforms is a must but on the eve of my boys starting their big adventures I'd been hospital visiting when I realised labels hadn't been sewn on uniforms. I've always hated this job. Mum would normally have happily undertaken this task. I was worn out physically and mentally and could have cried on arriving home and seeing the sewing box. And my son's secondary school insisted PE kit had the child's full name embroidered on shirts and specified the size of lettering. Hubby hadn't had his dinner. The children needed their beds. I was about to swear. Then the doorbell rang...my aunt (after visiting my mum) stood on the doorstep offering to sew on name tags. I dragged her through the doorway before she changed her mind! She embroidered the names onto black cloth then quickly and neatly sewed this onto the black rugby shirt. When the shirt was outgrown the cloth could be unpicked and sewn onto the new shirt. This year my younger son is teaching year three (juniors). A big step for pupils and a big step for my son, having passed his NQT year and becoming a 'real' teacher. The term started well. His class are a delight. But I felt nervous for this teacher on his first day of term! My son's fiancée is a reception teacher. Intake is staggered. Her first pupils were well prepared; many could count and had an idea of letters but her new ones this week are lacking in basic skills; some don't know how to paint. I remember helping in a year one class and having to show children how to get the paint from the colour block and apply to paper. My future daughter-in-law says during home visits she asked parents if the child painted at home. Many replied, "No, painting is too messy!" Maybe, but my advice is put up with the mess; children learn through play and creativity. I believe a child's confidence is boosted if they recognise their name when starting school, and know things such as their age, address, some letters and numbers. I don't think a child needs to be able to read when beginning school but being ready to read is a great confidence booster. If a child is used to books, crayons, pencils and puzzles, then, in my opinion, they'll be on their way to making a good start. But I also think even those lagging behind at the start will catch up. I've seen this happen. Having some skills, I feel, is mostly advantageous in terms of confidence. Another help is if children have socialised, perhaps with others who will be at school, maybe from playgroup or toddler group. A friendly face is a tremendous boost for a child. The parent often feels more nervous than the child on the first day at primary and secondary school, and even university! I've always tried not to show my concerns and treated the big event as a pretty normal occurrence. Especially in the first days of school I would remind them that I would be collecting them from school and that they should never leave school with anyone other than me, unless I'd already told them that a named person would be meeting them. It's good if children have an idea where their school is in relation to home. Pre-school visits are necessary. Infant children need to know where to put coats and lunch boxes. When my children were at primary school not many of their peers walked to school. I feel, if possible, carers should walk children to school; this teaches road safety and is the best opportunity to communicate. If my children were troubled over anything that happened during school all would be revealed on the walk home. On walking to school we would count things we saw along the way, practise times tables and spellings. GOOD LUCK TO ALL PUPILS, TEACHERS AND PARENTS
My five year old son started primary school a few weeks ago. So far, he has settled in well and has made a number of friends. He was nearly ready to go the previous year after just one year at nursery but had to wait until this year. In the run up to him starting school, we done a lot of preparation to ensure that his experience went smoothly. We ensured that he had everything he needed and that we had familiarised ourselves with school procedures and policies. We started buying things such as stationary early on. Here are a few things that we personally done to prepare our son for school. ~Uniform~ We are quite lucky that the school offers both a smart and casual uniform. Knowing that my son wasn't overly keen on wearing a shirt in tie, we opted for the casual uniform. We took our son to the shops and allowed him to decide between different styles of tops, trousers and shoes which he appreciated. As we done this in the middle of the Summer holidays, we bought what fitted there and then. The week before he was due to start, we tried on all of his uniform and found that the trousers no longer fitted and that he had gone up a shoe size. I would recommend trying on the clothes a few times prior to starting school. Luckily we had enough time to exchange the clothes and buy bigger sizes. Label everything! ~Routine~ When my son attended nursery, we had quite a good routine through the week. Through the Summer, this routine slipped a little as we were doing different things. The few weeks prior to him starting school, we tried to get back in to a routine of going to bed at a certain time and getting up at a certain time in the morning to ensure that we wouldn't be late for school and that he was getting enough sleep. This routine has served us well and his sleeping pattern is even better than it was previously. ~Going To School~ As we were used to Boo being at a nursery at the bottom of the road, we had to arrange how we would get to school each morning and how long it would take us. We have used both the bus route and walking route to school and took this route many times through the Summer holidays to determine how long it would take and to also get Boo used to walking it twice a day. He walks to school most days except if the weather is really bad. We visited the school at every opportunity that we could and I spent a lot of time asking questions and gathering information about what my son would be doing. I think it is important for both parents and children to be able to put names to faces on the first day and as we had previously met and spoken with the teacher, head teacher and assistants, neither my son nor I were as nervous on the first day. I was confident that I would be leaving him in good hands. ~Time To Learn~ I have always spent time teaching my son and reading with him since he was a baby. We were given some booklets about what he should expect to learn at school in certain classes. We put aside time to do the activities in these booklets as well as our own activities. Boo practised writing his name, numbers and letters and this has served him well in his first few weeks at school. It has also helped us prepare him for homework tasks and allowed us to bond even further. Although nursery learning isn't quite as structured as school work, we wanted to ensure our son continued to learn through the Summer to help the transition to school be less daunting. The activities that we done were fun yet educational at the same time. ~Final Thoughts~ Starting school can be scary for children and not every child (or parent) will take it in their stride. We have been quite lucky that our son was excited about starting school and has been enthusiastic about his work and teacher. We feel that we prepared him well for school. Simple things like ensuring he knew how to work his new sharpener, make sure he was tucked in after going to the toilet, remembering to hand his homework in and asking for help if he needed it - they are all important. Children need to be prepared with all the practical things as well as being mentally prepared. At the end of the day, every child is different and it is important to ensure that you don't worry them about what will happen at school. We talked about school through the Summer and what to expect. It found important to talk about school in a positive way and discuss new friends and activities as well as the educational side of school. It does take a bit of getting used to as they are away from their parents for 30hours per week. My sons first day went smoothly - I waited until I was out before I cried (though the same cannot be said about Granny) and my son went in no bother. A few weeks on, he is doing really well and enjoy it. That's all that I can ask for at the end of the day. Thanks for reading :)
As a mother of three boys, aged ten, six and three, I have had experience of settling youngsters in to a new school and am all too familiar with the anxieties for both parent and child. Earlier this week, my youngest son began pre-school at my older son's first (primary) school, complete with full school uniform, despite only turning three a couple of week's earlier! Emotional Issues My younger children had the advantage of being familiar with their future school before attending, simply through completing the school run to pick up their older sibling(s). I do think this made it much easier for them to adapt to the idea of going to school as it was already a familiar concept to them. For the first child in a family, it is really important to take them to see the school beforehand. Most schools are really conscious of this and hold open days or transition days where children have the opportunity to come into school beforehand, which helps to build up their confidence and makes the process of starting school slightly less daunting. I also think these introductory sessions are crucials for parents as it gives you a chance to meet the key members of staff, learn names and the practical details such as drop off times, parking areas and which doors/areas to wait for the children at the end of the day. Knowing all of these specific details can help to reduce anxiety for the parents which is often just as important as a stressed parent is likely to have an impact on the child's state of mind too. With very young children, I'd recommend preparing them for the idea of children using the details that you already know, so, again, making sure you know the names of their key teachers and assistants is really helpful so these can become familiar terms to your child before they start. I've also found role plays, playing 'schools' a really helpful way of preparing my kids - especially when I've acted the role of the child and they've taken on the role of the teacher. My kids love saying 'Don't worry. Mummy will come and pick you up after you've had a little play and some fruit and milk.' There are also lots of really well written story books available about schools and first days at school, all of which raise some potential sources of anxiety but turn out well in the end. My boys' favourite is one where Splat the Cat starts school and takes his pet mouse into the classroom with him! Practical Issues My top tips to make life much easier, from a practical parent's point of view, include being really organised as it can be really overwhelming to discover just how many different activities and events that a child (and parent) will be involved in at school. It is much easier to keep on top of things if you are prepared even before they actually start. I have learnt the hard way the importance of having an accessible calendar and recording all those crucial dates; including term dates, teacher training days, birthday parties, open days, sports days, harvest festivals, non uniform days, plays and all the other special events designed to throw otherwise organised families into disarray! An ordinary calendar is perfectly sufficient, providing everything is clearly listed as soon as the details are announced and, of course, checked on a daily basis. For larger families, I'd recommend paying a little extra for a planner style calendar, which offers more space for different family members as well as a little pocket for letters and invitations to be stored away safely. (I'm currently using a Gruffalo planner which starts from the academic year, so no need to wait until next January to purchase and feel better prepared.) Being well prepared, even before your child has started their first day at school which help in the long term and prevents sending your child into school on a holiday (done that) or in uniform on a non-uniform or dressing up day (done that) or without some vital piece of equipment for a special project (done that too!) My other tip as a long-suffering parent is to label absolutely everything. I usually use the iron on labels (as I detest sewing slightly more than I detest ironing) but this year, with three kids' belongings to label, I have tried out an incredibly easy system of clip on name tags (Easy fix clip ons from Nametags4U.) They were certainly easy to attach but only time will tell whether they are durable enough to withstand a full school year. It is not only clothing that needs to be clearly labelled with your child's name - everything from their lunch box, wellies, PE kit, right down to their shoes needs to be clearly named. (You might well think that surely a child won't be able to lose their own shoes - until your child arrives home with two seemingly identical shoes, only to notice that one shoe is a smaller size than the other! With many parents buying Clarks shoes and kids far too busy to worry about small details such as their shoes fitting, this is far from unusual. If both shoes are named, it is much easier to track down the rightful owner and switch back.) My final tip, certainly with boys, is to have their hair trimmed nice and short before their first day at school to avoid them bringing home any unwelcome little guests! Don't forget to take some photos of your little one before they set off to school, looking oh so smart in their new uniform. I would also say that, even if your child does appear reluctant or anxious about the idea of starting at school, the reality will often be much better. A crying child on day one is pretty common but most children will be heading off to the classroom without so much as a backward glance by the end of the second week.
Funny how a chewed up blue Bic pen warrant an interest when parents gush out all enthused about the new school term and blurts out - "Excited!!" My niece hesitates and pouts and musters up something audible that sounds like; "Guesso." She is six, but even at six she comprehends 'superficial enthusiasm,' which busy-body parents that go on school trips and teachers are masters of. She mimic's her when she's out of ear-shot, - just. She is great at mimicking. But it did make me think, if educators treat children like three year olds, it isn't surprising they get a three year old response. Jived up superficiality is part of the educator's arsenal; I s'pose a case of... more Spence, to make learning less tense," although, outside the classroom, the over-enthused gush can be interpreted as condescending to the wider public. I explained that educators have to expel a fair amount of energy to get to the state of being that excited, so to get the best out of them, meet them half-way via smiling at the right times, and don't engage in any 'Teacher Chair Pranks.' They too get embarrassed by a multitude of little faces sniggering in unison - then again, they're angry with themselves for falling for the oldest prank in the book. Try and refrain from discussing the summer's plethora of activities and foreign holidays to the children who've had to make do with last year's scuffed up shoes. It makes them feel inadequate, all they've done is been on the 'X Box' for six weeks and it is transported back home, inadvertently it puts needless pressure onto economy-food finances and decrepit marriages. Be the generation to eliminate peer group pressure. This is a tough ask, I know, a mission impossible some might say, alas, "you've gotta have faith," tweet George Michael; see if you can borrow your teacher's iPad. Expect the aroma of stale coffee breath, especially after break-time, and the unmistakable aroma of cheese and onion after lunch-time. You see, educators enjoy the art of producing home-made coleslaw, lovingly cultivated from their six foot by six foot allotments - Rawness adds to the pungency. Get use to their obsession of using red ink on your work. The colour is a stark comparison to children's pencil scrawl, therefore, makes it easy for pupil and teacher to see their comments; otherwise there are no obvious distinctions. No, they don't do joined-up writing, on the premise they write like a child, but claim it is done so as a 'learning tool' - yet on Christmas cards they write in exactly the same way, presumably using their 'learning tool' for those who've escaped the education system -incessantly an educator, even for doctorates. School uniform is imperative, a sign to the corporate world; 'we are with you, and we will be part of your grand scheme' - training to bring you even greater profit margins during the next generation. Though, ironically children are told the purpose of the school uniform is to stop children from acting like children - for example, getting muddy, play fighting and soiling attire. For a hundred years it hasn't worked, hence, why we still endorse this expense of 156 GBP on average per primary schoolchild per parent. To keep the pretence up, 'it works.' In real terms buying the uniform is an attendance fee for a supposedly 'free' education. By not purchasing means your child are not attending - the uniform symbolizes the child is allowed an education. Please pay no attention to the baggy school uniforms that resemble flocculent masses, yes there is a child underneath; its fine they'll rapidly grow into the garments. Correcting an educator's spelling mistakes is 'wickedly good,' or inquiring whether the oxymoron script was intentional - Resulting with the right kind of 'Brownie points' gained from your peers. Educating the educator gets you places. Don't be, 'loud, proud, so you stand out from the crowd.' Never leave your 'Thomas the Tank Engine Lunch Box' unattended, the opportunity of a prank will be too irresistible for the resident classroom clown, and yes there will be several. You can't miss them, the signs, 'extravagant cheek pimples, or freckles.' Watch-out for their foreman, again, you cannot miss them; they're whiney and precocious, they instigate stuff without doing it. Set a precedent, not to be a 'teacher's pet' - the job is up for grabs from the first day of the new term. If asked by a teacher to do a menial task such as: "Can someone help me by handing out exercise books," on the very first morning, pretend that you've not registered the request, a good idea is to fix your eyes to congealed dust particles on the floor of the classroom left by a Janitor, until a willing participant unwittingly helps. They'll be doing menial tasks for the rest of the term - years on these poor mites will be bolstering up the UK economy by doing zero hour contracts and internships; therefore creating a fake economy - parliamentarians will toast to its 'flat line' success, without thought or heed. Stay clear from those who are clumsy write on their hands, have any form of piercing at the age of six, talk emotively about Cheryl Cole, Gucci, Prada and Jimmy Choo shoes - they will steal your childhood. The author Alissa Quart calls them capitalism's 'tweenie queens;' brands follow them like bees-to-honey: notably, the reason why Eastern Asian sweat-shops will exist for generations to come. Going to school is a not a new concept, a high proportion us have gone through the education system, surprisingly enough and survived it. It provides jobs and in fact without children their jobs would become obsolete. Pity the educators because no-one in the right mind would want to do such a regulated job, which is unfairly assessed by an academy system destined to come a cropper. The only light in their day is seeing the little ones smile. Our educators are the true civil servants of our nation.
So, with the "First Day at School" photos long printed off, those new shiny shoes scuffed beyond all repair and the new daily routine become the norm, it's time to take stock of the preparations for school. I've been though preparing two children for primary school now, and (fingers crossed) have two children who thoroughly love school. In my professional life I've been a tutor to children starting senior school, so hopefully along the way - though I can't claim to be perfect - I've learned a tip or two. My experiences are all of the State System in this country, where I've seen and worked with some fantastic teachers, though some things will be true of all schools. First things first: Finding a school that you want your child to go to is, sadly, a minefield in this country. I think it really helps to find out as much information as you can as far in advance, I don't really think there is such a thing as too early to investigate school. It may be that the choice you think you have is, in fact, not much of a choice at all, but if you do have a choice of school try and speak to other parents and make the most of opportunities to visit the school that you have. In my experience a school that isn't afraid to allow visits during the working day when you will see the school in action warts and all, can be more representative of the experience your child will have than the impression given at an Open Evening. Ofsted reports are one thing, but where you can seek out people who have children who have been to the school and find out if they were happy. To me that is the most important thing, as children need to be happy in order to learn. Practical Preparations: These days there seems to be pressure on parents to have their children reading at 3, knowing a foreign language at 4, or able to demonstrate progress to "targets" in preschool. Now sorry, but to me this is nonsense. I can see no point in trying to cram an unwilling child with information, to me it's no big deal if they can't write their name or haven't learned all their letters; that's what they will learn at school and competitive parenting does them no favours at all. If they show interest in those things, fine, follow the child's lead, but to me it's more important that they learn to listen (as a teacher I can tell you that that is a skill many children today are sadly lacking), communicate, are polite to adults and handle the practicalities such as being able to pull down their own trousers, go to the toilet and that they have learned that the word "no" means just that. If you think your child may have some sort of special need, such as a speech or other issue, it may be good to investigate this prior to school starting, but this is also an area where school can help, even in these days of cuts, cuts and more cuts, again try and get as much information as you can. In terms of helping your child learn how to learn, I've always found that the simplest activities such as baking cakes, going for a walk in the woods or going to the park are, actually, great opportunities for preschoolers to learn, and have made sure that books, trips to the library and craft have all been part of the daily routine. I'm no super mum so there have been days when it's been c-beebies ago-go, but mainly I've enjoyed my children being at home and been lucky enough to be at home for part of it too and would say it's worth remembering that their time at home is, on the scale of things, fleeting, so enjoy it - even when they've kept you up all night or are redecorating the front room. Once at school you won't see them that much - as my 7 year old pointed out to me today her teacher sees me more than I do - so make the most of it. It's worth making sure that all injections are up to date, though there is no legal obligation in this country to do so, and remembering that school should, if at all possible, be portrayed in a positive light. Even if your own experience of school was not a happy one, try and be positive and point out the fun that they will have - and trust me they do! If at all possible try not to make the teacher the enemy, saying things like "you won't be able to do THAT at school" or "you had better not be wetting your pants when you go to school" is really tempting, but probably not a great idea. What you can do is look for stories about school at the library and listen to any fears they have without building up the whole thing too much. These days many schools will arrange home visits for primary school children and the liasons between preschool settings and school are good. I would say also that, long term, in my experience, being a supportive school parent is probably one of the most important things you can do for your child - working with the school in partnership is really essential, if you have found a school which wants the best for your child as you do, work with them. It's a good idea also to look into the provision the school makes for your child - though, legally, all children need to be in some sort of schooling (including home-schooling I believe) the term after they are 5, before that there's no legal obligation, so if there is provision for part-time or delaying entry, it's worth considering if you think it is appropriate for your child. In my authority, from this September, parents have a choice to keep on funded preschool or opt for school, and this, to me can only be a good thing, while I worry that the pressure is to start children earlier and earlier. My youngest has started full time at 4 and a half, and I was worried it would be too young, but so far so good, and should she get too tired I will have no worries pulling her out for an afternoon if I am able. That said, I also made sure we took our last term time holiday before school started - you may want to find our where your school stands on this one, some schools will tolerate a few days' absence, others may fine you. I know as a teacher how, in secondary school, absence can be really disruptive for a child so I've always taken the view that if I have opted into a school then by default I'm losing out on cheaper holidays (or actually, holidays) for a while - the school year is only 40 weeks in the state system, so if they miss a couple of weeks per year it can soon mount up in terms of percentage. You may well disagree with me, but it may be worth finding out where your school stands on this issue too. I think it's worthwhile, also, talking about how the routine will be and practising putting on uniform and the walk or journey to school. One practical preparation I hate is the sewing in of labels, I use an indelible pen where I can but find that iron in labels are a waste of time. I've also made sure to buy uniform over time as it can mount up, school shoes are horrendously expensive so need budgeting for. It may be useful also to find out what the school food provision is like and also how things work in terms of illness or emergencies. One last thing you need to think about is what YOU will actually do when your child goes to school - if you have been working full time and your child has been in nursery obviously it won't be much of a change, but otherwise you may need to think whether you will aim to up your working hours if part time or what you want to do - for me this was something I thought about well in advance and, along with arranging a few nice things for those first times by myself, as my youngest went to school, this helped me feel less bereft. It's a horrible truth that your job as a parent is to make yourself redundant, so I tried to remember this, and it helped, though I will admit to some very public sobbing after I had dropped off child number one and two for the first time - I *think* that's probably a healthy thing. So the first day comes: Both times I've tried not to build up the first day too much, and not make a fuss before bed time, though to have had everything laid out and ready for the morning and a "it's time to go school today!" with plenty of time to be allowed for the journey there. Both times it's gone quite well, though truth to be told after the photos were taken, the second time wasn't quite as I planned after I stepped in a very large dog pooh on the way there (not the idyllic walk to school I had planned) and this did upset my youngest who then had to be shoved in the general direction of her teacher, so upset was she by the sight of mummy covered in pooh (can't say I was overjoyed myself). I've found that making a fuss is probably not best and, first time into school over so far both my children have gone in happily every day, and I always try and tell them to have fun, and praise them for their achievements both small and large. Learning is fun, and for me that first day is the start of a life-long journey, and that's how I've tried to approach it. One thing that we have found to be vital during the first few weeks is to leave the rest of the week as freed up as we can and to expect slightly earlier bedtimes and a degree of tired and emotional child. I also think it's best not to bombard the child with questions as they come out and wait to see what they will tell you, much as you would like to know every detail. We have slowly established a new routine where packed lunch boxes are emptied, and coats hung up and tried to make things as calm and structured as we can. On some days, because I am going on to work generally, we have to go to school by car, but when I can we walk as I've always found the walk to school is the time when I have the best conversations with my children, assuming we've left plenty of time, which after one too many journey to school involving me continually saying "hurry up hurry up" I've learned to do - how the journey to school goes can really set them up for the day I've found. Along with birth, reaching adulthood and a first day at work, going to school for the first time is something we will probably all experience. For me the most important thing is to be as informed as possible and to make it the next logical and happy stage - school days can have their ups and downs for both parent and child, but make the first day and the days that follow as happy and positive as you can, you will be glad you did, and that first day may just be a day your child remembers for the rest of their life. For more info:http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Schoolslearninganddevelopment/ PreparingFortheFirstDayAtSchool/DG_10013541